Humble Crouch keeps himself in contention

LONDON - With 18 goals in 35 appearances for his country Peter Crouch should already be packing his big size 12 boots for next year's World Cup finals in South Africa.

However, after scoring twice in England's final qualifier against Belarus on Wednesday, the Tottenham Hotspur striker still wore the humble expression of a player just happy to be mixing with such exalted company.

"Hopefully, I've given (coach Fabio Capello) something to think about," the much-travelled 28-year-old told reporters. "I always seem to be saying that. But I'm pleased with the way it went tonight. All I can do is score goals."

There is something in Crouch's gangly appearance that will always attract scorn from the purists who would rather have the predatory Michael Owen on the plane next June.

They would argue that a good proportion of Owen's 40 goals in 89 caps have come against serious opposition while Crouch tends to bamboozle the lesser teams.

But with Owen not featuring for England since March last year and with probably only two more matches, one against Brazil in Doha next month, before Capello selects his 23-man squad, Crouch is the man in possession.

"When I've been given opportunities I've managed to get my big size 12s on to the end of things," said Crouch, who could find himself back on the bench behind fellow England hopeful Jermain Defoe at his old club Portsmouth on Saturday.

"I've not been playing as much as I would like but hopefully I'll keep myself in the manager's thought's. I don't feel like I've let anybody down but there are a lot of players who are not in the squad who will hope to be there."

Capello clearly likes the added dimension that Crouch offers. As a foil to main striker Wayne Rooney he is a more natural finisher than the hard-working Emile Heskey and an easier target than the diminutive Defoe.

Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor, who was paired with Crouch against Belarus, still appears too raw for a World Cup although he did create Crouch's first goal.

"I know the numbers of Crouch. I have a style that I want to play in certain games," Capello said. "I know very well Peter Crouch. He scores lots of goals."